On a cold winter night in Manchester, New Hampshire last month, little Tegan McCall stood in the doorway of his apartment watching firefighters move swiftly around his apartment building.
Tegan is non-verbal and suffers from cerebral palsy, and it’s rare that he makes connections with other people. On that night, however, Tegan caught the attention of Lt. Mike Rheault.
Mike noticed Tegan watching silently as the firefighters checked the fire alarms in the building, which were going off at the time. Mike said that the boy “looked at me like he wanted to say something, but wasn’t being verbal.” Since both of Mike’s parents were deaf, he saw immediately that Tegan was trying to read his lips.
Instead of moving on with his job, the firefighter stopped what he was doing and started communicating with Tegan with American Sign Language.
“I said, ‘Hey, how are you?’ And he kind of smiled at me,” Mike recalled. “And I said, ‘My name is Mike. What’s your name?’ And he said, ‘My name is Tegan,’ and I said, ‘Oh, it’s nice to meet you.’”
Before continuing with his work, Mike taught Tegan the word in sign language for firefighter, much to the boy’s delight!
Amy McCall, Tegan’s mother, caught the moment on camera, as she was touched by how happy it made her son.
“It made me cry after I came back inside,” she said. “Tegan is just thrilled.”
Amy shared the video on social media, thanking the Manchester Fire Department and Mike specifically.
“The Manchester Fire Department responded to our building tonight when 3 floors of alarms were going off,” Amy wrote. “Firefighter Mike noticed Tegan not speaking and asked if he knew sign language right before I recorded this. Thank you Fireman Mike and Manch FD.”
Mike even gave Tegan a fire hat before he left!
Amy is hoping that the video will encourage others to communicate with nonverbal children.
“Talk to them, talk to all the kids. If you see a kid at the playground whose different, or in a wheelchair or doesn’t speak, or has special accommodations… they just want to be your friend,” Amy said.
Check out the touching video below!
The @ManchesterFD responded to our building tonight when 3 floors of alarms were going off. Firefighter Mike noticed Tegan not speaking and asked if he knew sign language right before I recorded this. Thank you Fireman Mike and Manch FD ❤️ @mhtinformation pic.twitter.com/aAv9wM3cno
— Amy McCall (@amyjomccall) February 1, 2019